The British Government must urgently clarify its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement amid claims that it will argue in court that its provisions do not apply in domestic law, Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has said.
He was commenting after immigration and rights campaigner Emma DeSouza said that papers disclosed as part of her court case against the British Government revealed that the Home Office will argue that the birth-right provisions of the Good Friday Agreement are not part of domestic law and are therefore unenforceable.
“Emma DeSouza has fought a long campaign to assert the birth-right provisions of the Good Friday Agreement which gives citizens the entitlement to British, Irish or dual nationality,” Niall Ó Donnghaile said.
“The fact that the British Home Office continues to oppose her through the courts is in itself an affront to the Good Friday Agreement. But if it is the case they are now preparing to argue that these provisions don’t apply in law than that is an extremely concerning development.
“The Good Friday Agreement is an internationally-binding treaty, overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Ireland and co-guaranteed by the Irish and British Governments. The provisions and protections within it must be upheld without equivocation.
“The Good Friday Agreement cannot and will not be renegotiated at the whim of the British Home Office.
“If they are now set to argue in a court of law that it somehow does not apply then that is entirely unacceptable.
“The British Government at the highest level must urgently clarify its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and end this attempt to dilute or diminish it.
“And as a co-guarantor of the Agreement, there is an onus on the Irish Government to assert itself in defence of it.”
Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has slammed Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy for standing by while 12 emergency beds are due to close in Bray the very same week that a funeral took place for a homeless man that passed away in the town.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Teachta Brady said:
“This week, I attended the funeral of a young homeless man who died in Bray last week. He had been sleeping in a tent as a result of the housing crisis. He died in that tent, having been failed by this Governments’ housing policy.
“Within days of this young man passing away, those using the 12 emergency beds have been notified that it will close at the end of this month. People are dying on our streets and the very measly measures being put in place by this Government to prevent this, are being shut down.”
Bray East representative for Sinn Féin Grace McManus added that:
“These 12 emergency winter beds opened before Christmas never even met demand in Wicklow. There has been a consistent waiting list to gain access to the emergency beds yet; despite this a decision has been made to close these beds. It is absolutely shameful.
Teachta Brady concluded:
“I have asked Minister Murphy today in the Dáil directly and I ask him again now. How many more people without a home unable to access emergency accommodation have to die on our streets before the Government acknowledge that their housing plan Rebuilding Ireland is not working?
“The young homeless man who passed away in Bray this week is the very proof of that fact.”
Speaking in Leinster House today, Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny TD welcomed the beef compensation fund announced today for Ireland by European Commissioner, Phil Hogan. However, Teachta Kenny asked for more detail about who will benefit from the fund.
The Sligo-Leitrim TD said:
“It is no secret that beef farmers have been suffering from the effect of a looming Brexit and dropping prices.
“Any compensation that will help offset the effect of Brexit on them has to be welcomed, however, I would very much like to know how this fund will be allocated.
“The people who need and deserve support are the primary producers and I would not like to think that the money will end up with the processors. It is suckler farmers and finishers who need support. There is also a need to support breeders, who sell on and don’t necessarily finish cattle for slaughter, but their role in the industry is vital and their margins must also be protected.
“Funding, especially coming up to an election, is often found, but the nub of the issue is where it will be spent.”
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson and Sligo/Leitrim TD Martin Kenny has said that small and family farmers need to ensure that Matt Carthy is returned to the European Parliament to continue defending and advancing their interests as he has done over the past five years.
Teachta Kenny said:
“As a member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Matt Carthy has been a champion for rural communities, family farms, and a fairer distribution of CAP payments.
“Matt has been on the frontline defending Irish farmers against the implications of Brexit, dangerous EU trade deals, and has been working to ban oppressive practices by factories and supermarkets including below cost selling.
“Matt has been working to deliver fairness in CAP payments to secure higher supports to family farmers.
“He has campaigned hard for an upper payment limit to prevent a small minority of larger farmers from soaking up the majority of CAP monies.
“Working closely with farmers groups Matt has was worked assiduously to maintain and improve the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme to ensure increased supports to those with most constraints.
“He has sought to resolve the issue of delayed farm payments; fairer inspection process including the yellow-card system.
“Regarding forestry, Matt Carthy has been very clear on the need for a forestry strategy that works for farmers, communities and the environment and to prevent land grabbing by vulture funds.
“If re-elected, Matt will continue to advocate for small and family farmers. It is important that such farmers ensure that Matt Carthy is returned to the European Parliament to continue defending and advancing their interests as he has done over the past five years.”
Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill spoke with British Secretary of State Karen Bradley today and challenged her to clarify the British government’s position on dealing with the legacy of the conflict.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“The comments made by the British Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt undermine the legacy mechanisms agreed by the two governments and five main parties at Stormont House.
“Penny Mordaunt’s proposals introduce a statute of limitations and represent an attempt by the state to bring in legislation to prevent any members of the British state forces from being charged with murder.
“I spoke today with British Secretary of State Karen Bradley and challenged her to explicitly explain and publicly clarify her government’s policy on the matter.
“Karen Bradley told me the comments from Penny Mordaunt do not reflect official British government policy but I made it clear to her that the onus is now on the British government to eliminate public confusion and clarify their exact position as a matter of urgency.
“No one can be above the law, all victims and survivors should have the same access to processes of truth and justice, there can be no immunity or impunity for British forces guilty of crime, collusion and murder in Ireland.
“Sinn Féin will continue to support the families in their pursuit of truth and justice.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed news this morning that An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has signed the money message for his Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill which is designed to bring the insurance industry to heel and reform the law in respect of insurance contracts.
This news comes just a day after Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised the Taoiseach at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil for the two year delay to this legislation which received unanimous support in the Dáil at second stage, and days after the announcement that the European Commission is to undertake a formal investigation into Insurance Ireland’s data pooling system.
Speaking today Teachta Doherty said;
“The news that my legislation now has a money message is very welcome albeit two years late. It means that the legislation can now move to committee and remaining stages and, given its unanimous support in the Dáil at second stage, I expect it to pass all stages and be signed into law.
“It is beyond belief that the European Commission has had to step in to investigate Insurance Ireland’s data pooling system when it has been clear that insurers have been ripping off policy holders for years. The government could have and should have stepped in to deal with this issue but it decided not to.
“I have met with the Minister this week to discuss looking at ways to further strengthen the bill to deal with developments since the bill passed the Dáil two years ago.
“I will now push to have committee stage scheduled without delay so that we can accelerate the passage of this legislation into law.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said the significant decrease in applications for postal and proxy votes for the upcoming European Election is ‘concerning’ and has requested a meeting with the Electoral Office.
The Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA was commenting after it emerged the number of applications for postal and proxy votes has dropped by 8,000 from the local government election.Colm Gildernew said:
"There have been serious concerns raised about the timeframe for applying for postal and proxy votes as the deadline was the day of the local government elections.
“The Electoral Office has a responsibility to ensure citizens have maximum access to their democratic right to vote. It has demonstrably failed to achieve this given the worrying reduction in applications for postal and proxy votes for the upcoming European Election.
“The Electoral Office has spent the last few years centralising all election related services to a single office in Belfast which has limited access to its services for people outside Belfast, particularly those in rural areas. This decision needs to be reviewed urgently.
“I have requested a meeting with Electoral Office officials to address the reasons for this decrease in applications and previous concerns arising from the local government elections.”
Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has expressed ‘deep concern’ at the fact that just 5% of the €180m spend on homeless services in 2018 was spent on prevention.
The Dublin Mid-West TD has also called for the urgent introduction of an independent inspection regime for both private and voluntary sector emergency accommodation.'
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Figures released by the Department of Housing show that €180m was spent on homeless services in 2018. The figures also show that just 5% of that budget was spend on preventing people from becoming homeless.
"In Dublin the figure was even lower at just 4%. In the Mid East Region nothing was spent on homeless prevention.
“It is a matter of deep concern that there is such a big imbalance between prevention and emergency response to homelessness.
“While Government must continue to provide emergency accommodation to all those who need it the fact that just €9.6m from €180m was spent preventing people from becoming homeless is totally unacceptable.
“It demonstrates that the homeless crisis is out of control and the Government does not have a grip on it. The Government must outline a plan showing how they intend to shift the focus from emergency accommodation to prevention.
“I am also concerned that there is still no independent inspection regime for all emergency accommodation. While inspection of voluntary sector accommodation will commence this year it will be carried out by Local Councils. This is not sufficient. What is needed is a fully independent inspection regime ensuring that all emergency accommodation, including hotels and B&Bs, meet the highest possible standards.”
Sinn Fein councillors in Glengormley Michael Goodman and Rosie Kinnear have condemned those responsible for sectarian graffiti at Queen's Park.Cllr Goodman said:“This offensive and sectarian graffiti is utterly unacceptable in any society and must be removed at once.“Those responsible for this graffiti in no way represent this community or reflect Republican values and only serves to heighten tensions to everyone’s detriment.Cllr Kinnear added:“Unfortunately incidents such as this only serve to further division at a time when the community wants to move forward.“We call on those responsible to stop.”
British Government plans to suspend the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) are hugely retrograde and a threat to citizens everywhere, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said.
She was commenting after the British Defence Secretary reiterated a plan to suspend parts of the European Convention before embarking on ‘military operations’.
Martina Anderson said: “This is a hugely retrograde step that threatens the rights of citizens everywhere because basically, the British Government is saying that it wants to embark on military adventures around the world without having to worry about anything as troubling as the rights of individual citizens.
“They want to set aside protections such as the right to life and the right to liberty and that tells you everything you need to know about the British Government and its intentions.
“They have already announced their plans to scrap the Human Rights Act – the same act which underpins the Good Friday Agreement, gives effect to the ECHR and gives citizens access to the European Court of Human Rights.
“This is all part of an ideological crusade by the British Government to remove themselves from any means of accountability or international scrutiny. It should be rigorously opposed.”
A member of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Martina Anderson added: “The Human Rights Act and the Convention have been crucial to numerous significant developments in recent times. Article Two of the Convention deals with the right to life. It is via this article that both the Hillsborough families and the Loughinisland families were able to pursue truth recovery.
“We have commissioned and made available specific legal opinion on the scrapping of the Human Rights Act. This report concludes that the scrapping of the Human Rights Act would constitute a grave threat to the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin will continue to oppose any attempt by the British Government to dilute or remove human rights protections.”
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan said a major change of attitude is needed from Fine Gael on climate action, saying “the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland report shows us that Fine Gael isn’t even trying to reach the 2020 renewable energy targets. Their failure to reach the very modest target of 16% renewable energy by 2020, well below the EU average of 20%, will now cost Irish taxpayers hundreds of millions. This is money that we should be putting into climate action measures.”
Lynn Boylan said:
“We have known for at least three years now that Ireland will not meet its 2020 renewable energy or climate targets, and all we have seen from Fine Gael is a shrugging of shoulders and a lot of waffle about climate action.
“The total inaction of Fine Gael means that Ireland is only expected to reach 13% renewable energy by 2020, and that is shocking when you consider that we were given a very modest target of 16% renewable energy to achieve when the EU average is to achieve 20%.
“90% of our energy is still coming from fossil fuels. This is in a country where we have so much renewable energy potential and could actually be aiming for complete energy sovereignty. We need to rapidly increase the adoption of renewables, especially in the heating sector.
“We also need to see a change of attitude from Fine Gael in the European Parliament where they have repeatedly voted against climate action measures including having binding renewable energy targets. They are so out of touch that they are now trying to move the focus on 2050 targets, something, which completely ignores the urgency of the climate emergency
“The EU system of cap and trade, given its failure to set direct goal-based binding targets for Member States, means that countries like Ireland just won’t bother when they know they can just buy credits for non-compliance. What’s commonly misperceived as fines for noncompliance, is actually the Irish government being obliged to buy credits.
“The European Investment Bank should also be releasing funds for massive state investment in the energy sector, to front-load our actions on renewables.”
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has welcomed the General Synod the Church of Ireland to Derry for the first time.
The Foyle MP said:
“I welcome the fact that the Church of Ireland’s General Synod will meet in Derry in the coming days.
“This is the first time this body has met in Derry in its 150 year history and we are delighted they are coming to the city.
“I wish Bishop Ken Good and all those taking part in the General Synod well in their discussions and deliberations in the days ahead.”
Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has commended the efforts of paramedics and the emergency services following the crash of a light aircraft in Clonoe.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“The crash of a light aircraft in a field in Clonoe has shocked the local community.
“Thankfully no one was seriously injured in this incident near the Annaghnaboe Road.
“I’d like to commend the emergency services on their response to this incident.
“I hope those involved make a full abs speedy recovery.”
In response to proposals from the lead candidates of ALDE and the Party of European Socialists for a new European ‘tax floor’ and an 18% Corporation Tax rate across Europe, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has said “this nonsensical proposal highlights the real need for MEPs who will fight for Ireland in Europe”.
The Dublin MEP added:
“Our Tax Sovereignty is under threat from those in Europe who want to see more consolidation of power in the hands of Brussels. It is little wonder that this proposal has come from the European Parliament groupings of Fianna Fáil and Labour. It is completely unacceptable. Sinn Féin stand for the right of each EU Member State to determine its own tax laws and system. That will guide our approach to this issue.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has called for the removal of an offensive banner referring to a former British soldier accused of murder on Bloody Sunday close to Belfast city centre to be removed.
Paul Maskey said:
“The appearance of a banner in support of Soldier F, the former British soldier accused of murder in relation to Bloody Sunday, on Sandy Row close to Belfast city centre is concerning.
“This is close to shopping centres, car parks and other amenities which are used by people from across Belfast and visitors to our city.
“This banner will cause distress not only to the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday and those killed by the parachute regiment in Ballymurphy but also other victims of state violence.
“It should be removed immediately.”
No British soldier should be exempted from the due process of the law, Sinn Féin Victims and Legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon has said.
"The Mid-Ulster MLA was commenting after reports that the British Defence Secretary may be set to announce new measures to protect British soldiers and veterans from prosecutions.
"Initial reports have indicated the new laws will not apply in the North of Ireland but Linda Dillon warned that any attempt to create immunity for the British Army was wrong.
"“No British soldier should be above the law and whether crimes have been committed in Ireland or Iraq, those crimes should be investigated and those responsible held to account,” Linda Dillon said.
“Sinn Féin has rigorously opposed any and every attempt to introduce a statute of limitations or immunity for crimes committed by British soldiers in Ireland. We have stood in support of victims and and will continue to do so.
"Regardless of whether these reports are accurate the British Government know that extending these proposed protection to the north simply would not be tolerable or acceptable.
“However, it should not be tolerable anywhere and these measures give an indication of the British Government’s attitude towards justice and the criminality and murder carried out by their forces and proxies.
"They may well return to it so it is crucial to keep opposing all attempts to provide immunity to British soldiers and to support the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House as the best way of dealing with our past.” Ends/Críoch
Sinn Féin group leader on Belfast City Council, Councillor Ciaran Beattie, has said the party will nominate Councillor John Finucane to be the next Ard Mhéara of Belfast.
Councillor Beattie said:
"Sinn Féin will nominate Councillor John Finucane for the position of Ard Mheara for the coming year.
"John Finucane, who was recently elected to Belfast City Council, is a fearless defender and promoter of human rights and social justice and will ensure the rights of all are promoted and upheld."
Speaking ahead of nomination, Councillor Finucane said:
"I am honoured to have been selected by Sinn Féin for nomination to be the next Ard Mhéara of Belfast.
"I am grateful to those who have elected me and to my party colleagues who have nominated me for this position.
“If elected, I will build on the legacy of Deirdre Hargey and put human rights and social justice at the heart of my term in office; standing up for the rights of all."
Sinn Féin’s South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney has expressed his deep regret following news of another death on the Roguery Road, just outside Toome last night.
Declan Kearney said:
“I am deeply saddened to hear that another young life has been lost in a tragic traffic accident on the Roguery Road, just outside Toome last night.
“This is such heart-breaking news for the young man’s family and friends.
“It is also a sad reminder of the need for greater awareness of, and attention to rural road safety.
“I want to extend my deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of the young man who died as a result of this tragic accident, and I would appeal to anyone who may have been on the Roguery Road last night to assist the police in their inquiries.”
Sinn Féin deputy spokesperson for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has criticised Government for allowing PwC and KPMG to direct government policy.
This comes after it was revealed that €14 million has been paid to the firms in consultancy fees for the National Broadband Plan.
Speaking today, the Cork North-Central said:
“Today we were told by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton in response to a written question, that KPMG and PwC have been paid a combined €14 million in consultancy fees for the National Broadband Plan.
“Not only does it raise concerns about the ability given to the civil service to carry out its own functions, it also raises questions about the influence these consultancy firms have over public policy and the direction of taxpayers’ money and State resources.
“It won’t be lost on anyone that it was KPMG that audited the big banks before the financial crash, or that these firms often audit companies that are involved in scandals which the Government then pays them to investigate.
“It was KPMG and PwC that recommended the flawed privatisation model for broadband in December 2015 that will now see up to €3 billion transferred from the public purse to private shareholders, to build infrastructure the State won’t even own.
“Unfortunately, successive Labour and Fine Gael Ministers followed their advice despite repeated warnings from Sinn Féin.
“We have been advocating for a state-led approach to broadband since 2012, utilising the experience and expertise of ESB, and maintaining the infrastructure under public ownership.
“Government should now undertake a detailed analysis of our proposal before it is too late.”